10 Things Leaders Should Remember about People

  |   Leadership Print Friendly and PDF

“Personal relationships involve nature’s most mysterious forces. Outside judgements are easy to make and hard to verify.”

Walter Isaacson wrote that in his excellent biography of Albert Einstein, but it could describe any human relationships. Guess what? Leadership is a people business so you will spend your life not quite knowing what will happen next.

Every situation and every person will be unique. But you can increase the odds of choosing the right thing to do if you remember these ten things about people.

People have …

People have emotions. Those emotions make a difference in how they work every day. Help make the good days better. Adjust for the bad days.

People have a life outside work. What happens there will affect them and their work. And what happens at work will affect the rest of life. Very few people can compartmentalize.

People have a history. They will react to you and everyone they work with based on what happened in the past. Sometimes that will make no sense to you.

People are not …

People are not machines. People aren’t good at consistency. People get tired, too, and when we do our work suffers.

People are not interchangeable parts. No two people are alike. That means that no two people will do things the same way or respond the same way. Two people with the same job description will do the work differently.

People want to be safe.

People want to be physically safe. They want to be psychologically safe. They want to be safe from you and The Powers That Be. People get scared and when they’re scared, they don’t work as well, and they hide things. Part of your job is to protect them.

People want control.

People want the most control possible over their work life. They will be happier and more productive when they have as much freedom as possible. Learn to stand back. Let people work their way if it works and doesn’t mess up other people.

People want to do work that matters.

People want to do work that’s important. Tell them how their work makes a difference to others, to their teammates and to you.

People want to work with people they like.

Team chemistry is important. Teams where members are comfortable with each other are usually productive teams. Easy laughter is the sign of a team whose members like each other.

People want to be treated fairly.

People measure fairness by comparing their situation with others. They will compare the outcomes, the rewards and punishments. They will compare the process, the way they were treated.

People make mistakes.

Everybody makes mistakes, even you. Most mistakes aren’t worth commenting on. Serious mistakes or repeating the same mistake calls for investigation. When people are learning, mistakes are the price you pay for better performance in the future.

People are creative.

All people are creative people. They’ll bring you their ideas if you treat the ideas as gifts.

Beware. A legion of teachers and bosses came before you. They ignored or even ridiculed people’s ideas. It may take a while before your teammates share an idea with you.

People want to make progress.

People want to grow and develop. They want to make at least a little progress every day. Your job is to help them.


People have emotions and a life outside work.

People are not machines or interchangeable parts.

People want to be safe.

People want control.

People want to do work that matters.

People want to work with people they like.

People want to be treated fairly.

People make mistakes.

People are creative.

People want to make progress.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Ruba   |   19 Mar 2021   |   Reply

A good article to read

Anas Abidrabbu   |   20 Mar 2021   |   Reply

Well Said

Wally Bock   |   20 Mar 2021   |   Reply

Thank you.

Kerry   |   24 Mar 2021   |   Reply

One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time!

Wally Bock   |   24 Mar 2021   |   Reply

Thanks, Kerry

CHARLES OBIERO   |   24 Jun 2021   |   Reply